By Andy Kehe
Californian Staff Columnist
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – On eBay right now, you can bid on a cool, camouflaged, Alexandre Bolduc game worn Manitoba Moose Canadian Military Tribute Night No. 49 jersey. Only, read the fine print before you commit three or four hundred Franklins or more.
It’s tagged “authentic game-worn,” but it’s not game-worn, the item description goes on to note, in that it was only issued to Bolduc, who was not in uniform for the Moose of the American Hockey League for that game just five nights ago.
He was, instead, in uniform with the Condors — a No. 11 uniform — in Utah, where he assisted on a goal in a 4-0 Condors win over the Grizzlies.
Now, had they held the tribute on Feb. 23, a night on which he scored two goals and assisted on two others for the Moose, there’d be no need for the disclaimer. In fact, they might have retired the centerman’s uniform and not auctioned it off.
But who knew he wouldn’t be around two weeks later? Certainly not the Moose promotions folks. Not the Condors. Not even Bolduc, who as a player sitting on the fence separating two levels of hockey and susceptible to being called up and sent down at a moment’s notice, has grown accustomed to a pack-and-dash lifestyle.
“It’s always a little annoying to pack up the stuff all the time, but it’s what I choose to do. I’m not going to complain,” Bolduc said from Phoenix, where tonight he’ll play in his fourth game of his fourth stint with the Condors, and 12th game overall during this yo-yo of a season for the 21-year-old Montreal product.
“People have it a lot harder than me. I’m not going to complain about having to pack up at short notice. But I have learned to pack light, bring just the essentials.”
And these days, Bolduc is carrying with him deep concerns for his father, who is battling cancer.
“He’s always on my mind, but when I get out there on the ice, I’m putting it in the back my mind, hopefully,” he said. “I’m playing for him a little right now.”
It’s unlikely his Condors game-worn jersey from March 10 will ever come up for bid, but if it did, you can bet somebody in Condor Nation would pony up four figures. But given the chance to choose which uniform he’d have preferred wearing that night, Bolduc ain’t gonna lie to you. It’d be the Manitoba 49.
Not that he doesn’t get a kick out of playing with the Condors.
“(The AHL) is definitely where the NHL is looking for talent, but I’m just taking it day by day,” he said. “The way I look at is that I’m playing hockey, doing what I love to do. You go to Manitoba and it’s a winning team, a good organization and when you come back down to Bakersfield it’s a winning team and a great organization as well. I love both places.”
Last season he went up and down between Manitoba and Bakersfield as well, playing 29 games for the Moose (3 goals, 7 assists) and 35 games with Bakersfield, including 11 in the playoffs and had 14 goals and 10 assists.
In 32 games for this season for Manitoba, where he is more of a third-line grinder, Bolduc has 4 goals and 5 assists. Here, he’s expected to take shots on net and score, and he has — 5 goals, 14 assists in 11 games. Over the last three games, Bolduc has a goal and 5 assists and has peppered opposition goaltenders with 18 shots.
When he’s here, he’s not here for long — four games, two and two before this latest stint, which started Friday — although there’s reason to think it’ll be different this time. Bolduc, a fourth-round pick of the St. Louis Blues but now under contract with Manitoba, has been just an injury to a Moose or Vancouver Canucks player away from being called up to Manitoba, and it could be that he’ll get another call-up. But because he is not on the Moose’s playoff roster, he might be in Bakersfield for the duration, and as Raymond put it, “That’s bad for them, good for us.”
Great for the Condors if Bolduc, who is eligible for the ECHL playoffs, and Alex Kim are both in Condor sweaters for the playoffs. The two combined for nine points in a 6-0 victory over Phoenix Tuesday night.
“We’ve got a chance to win a championship with them,” said coach Marty Raymond. “That’s how big a difference they make. We might be able to afford to lose one of them but not both.”
Losing both — that’s crazy talk. The kind of crazy that often goes hand in hand with an NHL or AHL affiliation, which the Condors have never had. But if they want more like Bolduc, crazy might be where the franchise needs to go.